Coming Clean: A Memoir
One of the things that is clear from reading Kimberly Rae Miller’s Memoir Coming Clean, is that her life is a combination of embracing and rejecting her parents’ lives. She spent her childhood living with her father, a described hoarder of collected junk and papers of all kinds, and her mother, a habitual TV shopping network shopper. While her father withdrew to immerse himself in his paper world and radio news, her disabled mother purchased a constant stream of things from shopping networks that were never opened, let alone used. While she never described her mother as a hoarder, it is clear that both contributed to her desire to hide the reality of her life to her friends and colleagues.
“…it didn’t matter where I was or who I pretended to be. I would always be the girl who grew up in garbage.”
As a successful writer and comedienne, she looks back on her life with her parents, and her history of taking responsibility for cleaning her parents homes; partly to protect them from the world’s response to their lifestyle, and partly out of concern that their collection could result in fire, flood, infestation or unseen squatters, all of which had happened before.
In her own home, she cleaned constantly, worried about infestations of fleas and bedbugs.
” …convinced that no matter how much dusting, mopping, and sweeping I do, I will never really be clean enough.”
Her mother had to spend much of her days in bed, described her father: “This is how he copes with stress, he checks out.” Her father asks “How did I raise such a neat freak?” and Kim reflects that “He really did see it that way–that he had some stuff laying around and I was a pedantic minimalist.”
Kim coped first by studying and copying the behavior of “normal people”, once attempting suicide, and later by over-cleaning and purging possessions in her own space. In therapy and with help from her friends, she discovers that her family is not unique, and finds her way to a life she can live without shame.
But every person and each family have their secrets. It seems that opening the drapes and letting the light shine on them make them less shameful. This book is as much about loving our families even with their faults as much as it is about her experience with hoarding. Do we all expect others to judge us for what we don’t like about ourselves? I found it a quick read, and it made me reflect on my own life from a new perspective even if the story is different.
That is what we look for in a memoir. I recommend it.